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Blog // Travel
June 4, 2005

On Being An Ex-Pat II: Faith

I’ve felt that in Australia, people often don’t care about your faith commitments and in the UK they often don’t notice. But here your faith, especially as a “westerner” is always under scrutiny. That is because the stereotypes that tend to assume you are either here to seek or to sell a religion. Truth be […]

I’ve felt that in Australia, people often don’t care about your faith commitments and in the UK they often don’t notice. But here your faith, especially as a “westerner” is always under scrutiny. That is because the stereotypes that tend to assume you are either here to seek or to sell a religion.

Truth be told, neither end of that stereotype fits the ex-pats I have met, most of whom are here for more down-to-earth reasons. That’s not to say that living in a city like this does not make a deep impression, it does. In fact, it leads a lot of people to seriously re-evaluate their faith and it’s practical outworkings (or to simply abandon them all-together). The church where we worship understands this need among ex-pats as it’s primary focus. In many cities ex-pat churches are often mono-cultural (and frequently denominational) in nature, though here this congregation represents every corner of the globe and a wide range of ecclesiologies. It is far from being a local church, but for many who attend, it engenders deep feelings of belonging.

This time has made me consider in depth how we handle fluidity and mobility in our sense of church. The christendom model of church is rooted firmly in the local/fundamental, which is not only the wrong side of the divide for me, but incresingly the wrong side of the divide for a lot of people in the business, creative and academic spheres. A truly global/cosmopolitan church will have to not only accept, but embrace fluidity and mobility. Even a notion like thin walls is still too local; we need a church with thick networks.

Responses
Duncan Macleod 17 years ago

I’ve noticed that in mining towns in Central Queensland there’s a similar dynamic happening. People come and go. Few fit into the church options available but they make a go of it. The result is a local church that is continually changing in numbers and in flavour.

All this is somewhat threatening to those who would like to keep the status quo. The Christendom model of church sits well with the stability of employed personnel, buildings and traditions.

I’ve been talking with people who at present are exiles from the church – reluctant to buy into yet another structure that may ‘burn them’. It will be a strong test of flexibility to see if we can work together without trying to control or convert one another.

Brian Brock 17 years ago

Very interesting observation, fernando. I find the whole e-pat world fascinating, and worth reflecting theologically upon, so please continue.

Sorry not to have gotten back to you about the compliments on the website–I’m embarrased! Thanks for flogging me. I’ve now got you bookmarked and will look in more regularly.

Brian

f 17 years ago

duncan, thanks for the comments. i have visited a mining town church in NSW and seen that. however, it is interesting to consider what this means now that we have a very large ex-pat population in Sydney.

brian, thanks for stopping by. i have a few more reflections on the ex-pat experience to write, but also, this time has built upon my time in London to give more of a sense of the relationship between globalisation and the urban context. so I guess it will suffuse a lot of related comments and ideas as well.

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